What is the difference in the two closely related words empathy and sympathy? Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others.
When I empathize with a child of divorce, I’m sharing some aspect of what they are experiencing. When I sympathize, I’m recognizing they are suffering and I feel sorrow for them but I don’t necessary feel or understand the experience.
Empathy = sharing one’s pain.
Sympathy = sorrow for one’s pain.